A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
Remember when Florida-Tennessee was always the game you circled for September because it was always the best game of the month in college football? Well, that was then, way back in the 1990s. It isn’t much of a rivalry anymore. Florida has gone 14-1 against the Vols since 2005.
Shortly after 2005, the Vols (2-5 this year) began their descent into the college football wilderness, a place they may wander for another 25 or so. Florida, meanwhile, after eight years of purgatory (2010-17) has found itself a regular Moses in Dan Mullen. The 6th-ranked Gators (7-1) are three years out of the wilderness and perhaps three games away from the promised land of the College Football Playoff.
Because they’ve lost five in a row and the fans are all over Tennessee athletic director Phat Phil for hiring Jeremy Pruitt in the first place, Fulmer felt the need to compare Pruitt with Johnny Majors Thursday. Phattus Maximus was all too happy to point out that Majors was 14-15-1 in his first 30 games on the Tennessee job and Pruitt is 15-15. “I really think we’re a better football team than our record has shown,” Phat Phil said. To that, one Vol fan tweeted this response: “Is that the same Johnny Majors that @phillipfulmer stabbed in the back?” Indeed it is.
Over the same period of time as Pruitt has been doing his quasi-impersonation of a football coach, Mullen is 27-6. This season the Gators have scored 38 or more points in seven games and a mere 34 in the other. Mullen has built a team that might be the only one in college football that is capable of matching Alabama touchdown for touchdown. We’ll find out soon enough if that is true because, barring a miracle of manna from heaven proportions, the Gators and Bama will be facing off in the SEC Championship Game. The Sayer Says Sooth: A year ago in his first start since he was a 9th-grader, Kyle Trask threw for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Gators to a 34-3 win over Tennessee in The Swamp. This year the game is in Knoxville but it won’t matter. Trask is much better and so are the Gators. Tennessee was actually better last year when the Vols went 5-7. A year ago, Kyle Pitts caught four Trask passes for 62 yards and a TD. Pitts is better, too. So is Kadarius Toney. Florida’s defense isn’t as good as last year’s but it won’t matter because the Gators are going to score points in bunches. Florida 42, Tennessee 14
FLORIDA BASKETBALL IMPROVES TO 2-0 WITH BLOWOUT OF BC
The final score Thursday night read Florida 90, Boston College 70. It wasn’t that close. Once the game clock dipped below 10:00 in the second half, the Gators played bored the rest of the way. Bored or motivated they were still a much better team than BC of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For the second straight game, it was the combination of Keyontae Johnson and Tre Mann leading the way for UF. Johnson went 10-13 from the field, scored 24 points and snagged 12 rebounds. Mann followed up his 19-point game on Wednesday against Army with 17 points and six assists with only one turnover.
Also in double figures for the Gators were Scottie Lewis (14), Noah Locke (12) and Omar Payne (10).
For the game, the Gators shot 56.5% (35-62) and 33.3% from the 3-point line on 8-24 shooting. The Gators forced 21 BC turnovers and turned them into 21 points.
Florida’s next action is Sunday against Stetson (0-1), coached by former UF assistant Donnie Jones.
THE SEC SOOTHSAYER
#1 ALABAMA (8-0) at LSU (3-4): Last year’s game of the year is this year’s potential blowout of the century. Alabama comes into this one a 29.5-point favorite and it will be surprising if it’s that close, particularly since LSU will be starting a true freshman QB against an Alabama defense that has been the best in the country since the second half of the Georgia game. The LSU defense, which is giving up 30.3 points and 443.3 yards per game, has to stop an Alabama offense that goes for 48.5 points and 535.6 yards per game. Lots of luck there. The Sayer Says Sooth: Nick Saban has been cleared to travel to Baton Rouge but the outcome of this one doesn’t depend the least on Saban coaching. Alabama could win this if the entire coaching staff stayed in Tuscaloosa and left the team leadership to Mac Jones, who will play long enough Saturday to pad his Heisman candidacy stats (23 TDPs, 12.0 yards per pass attempt) while throwing to likely Biletnikoff winner Devonta Smith (72-1,074 receiving for 12 TDs) and handing off to likely Doak Walker winner Najee Harris (893 rushing yards, 17 TDs). Alabama 54, LSU 14
#5 TEXAS A&M (6-1) at AUBURN (5-3): If this game were played at Kyle Field, the Aggies would be favored to win by two or three touchdowns. They’re so much better at home while Auburn is roadkill. However, since it’s played on The Plains, it’s a perfect opportunity for the Gus Bus to quiet the folks who want him gone. The Aggies are 6.5-point favorites and they have the SEC’s best defense to go against the wildly erratic Bo Nix, but like his Auburn teammates, Nix is so much better at Jordan-Hare than he is on the road. Nix better be good throwing the ball because the Aggies are one of the best teams in the nation at stopping the run. Kelln Mond was rotten last week. He may not be much better this week although he better be. If he isn’t the Aggies’ chances of making the College Football Playoff as a wild card will die. The Sayer Says Sooth: Jimbo Fisher has fond memories of Auburn from his days as the QB coach for The Little Dweeb, Terry Bowden, back in the 1990s. He might not have such a fond memory if Auburn saves the Gus Bus with an upset over the nation’s 5th-ranked team. Bo Nix needs to play well and Auburn needs Kellen Mond to leave his game back in College Station, but it just may happen. Auburn 24, Texas A&M 21
VANDERBILT (0-8) at #8 GEORGIA (6-2): The post-Derek Mason era begins at Vandy with a beatdown by Georgia. Oh, sure, on any given Saturday. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. There are two chances Vandy wins this game – No way and no how. Vanderbilt’s goal will probably be to get close enough (her range is 20 yards) to get Sarah Fuller a field goal attempt or perhaps the unthinkable – score a touchdown so she can attempt an extra point. This one will be so bad that maybe Kirby Smart will let Stetson Bennett IV see the field one last time. The Sayer Says Sooth: This will get ugly early. Vandy won’t do anything to upset its run at a reverse perfect season and Georgia will score at will. After this is over, Poodle fans will be proclaiming JT Daniels is as great as the only UGa QB to make the College Football Hall of Fame – Francis Asbury Tarkenton. They tend to forget it’s Vandy and not a real football team. Vandy needs to hire a new head coach quickly, but the Commodores will do what they always do and that’s take their time, which isn’t exactly the brightest thing to do. There is a reason why Vandy is every SEC team’s favorite homecoming opponent. Georgia 49, Vanderbilt 7
ARKANSAS (3-5) at MISSOURI (4-3): With a win, Missouri guarantees a break- even season. If Arkansas wins, the Hogs keep hope alive that they can break even. Who would have thought that back in August? Missouri is a 3-point favorite, largely because the Tigers have all sorts of troubles defending the pass and they’ll be going against Feleipe Franks (2,017 passing yards, 17 TDPs; 229 rushing yards, 1 TD), who is a feel-good story the way he has come back from that horrendous ankle injury last year when he was a Florida Gator. Adding to the drama of this one is Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom, last year’s head ball coach at Missouri. Franks is good enough to get a bunch of points on the board for Arkansas. Is Odom’s defense good enough to stop Mizzou running back Larry Rountree III (650 yards, 8 TDs), who has run for 3,398 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career. The Sayer Says Sooth: If Mizzou head coach Eli Drinkwitz is smart he’ll try to shorten the game by pounding between the tackles with Rountree. That will keep the ball out of Franks’ hands and keep the game out of the hands of a Mizzou secondary that has given up more than 300 yards to every decent quarterback faced this year. This one goes to the Fighting Feleipes. Arkansas 31, Missouri 24
SOUTH CAROLINA (2-7) at KENTUCKY (3-6): The season comes to a merciful end for both South Carolina and Kentucky. The Wildcats are favored by 11.5 points but they’ve been beaten down the last two weeks by a combined 94 points and they may show up in body only. There is, after all, only so much pride to go around when your QB is Terry Wilson and your offense was last seen thumbing a ride to Hazard. For South Carolina, it’s a chance for Kevin Harris (928 yards, 14 touchdowns) to crack the 1,000-yard mark and for Gamecock fans to question out loud why interim coach Mike Bobo, who is also the offensive coordinator, stuck with Collin Hill such a long time rather than play Luke Doty or Ryan Hilinski. The Sayer Says Sooth: There is every good chance that South Carolina will be naming Shane Beamer as the new head ball coach within 24 hours after this one is over so there is something to look forward to for Gamecock fans. With any luck the first thing on his head coach agenda will be to fire Bobo and the entire offensive staff. As for Kentucky, Mark Stoops isn’t going anywhere but UK fans hope he’s got it in him to fire offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Kentucky 21, South Carolina 14
TACKLE FOOTBALL NEWS, NOT NECESSARILY FROM THE SEC
The Knight Commission has come to the conclusion that it’s time for Division I football to break away from the NCAA. We’ve known for a long, long time that needs to happen, but give the Knight Commission credit, they finally woke and smelled the coffee. There will be a break from the NCAA, that much is certain. It’s not an if but a when. The only question is whether all 130 of the football schools of Division I break as one or if there are two groups with their own television contracts and national championships – the 65 Power Five and the 65 from the Group of Five. What makes most sense is two divisions while allowing the Power Five to play Group of Five teams. Something else that would make sense is to allow spring football games against teams from D1AA. That would assure paycheck games that would help keep the D1AA teams afloat financially.
Because of a Covid-19 outbreak at Liberty (8-1), the road trip to unbeaten Coastal Carolina (9-0) was canceled. Instead of that awaited matchup, we might end up with a better one as unbeaten and 13th-ranked BYU (9-0) will face the 18th-ranked Chanticleers on the teal turf in Conway, South Carolina. The winner of this game is likely to move up some notches in the College Football Playoff Poll. BYU has been established as 10-point favorites.
Footballscoop.com is reporting that former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer met with the University of Texas president and athletic director last weekend in Los Angeles and then in Napa Valley following Meyer’s weekly gig on Fox Sports. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable. Somehow I doubt it, particularly since it would entail Meyer replacing one of his former assistants (current UT head coach Tom Herman). If he’s going to coach – which I don’t think will happen this year – my belief is it would be at Southern Cal. That would depend on Southern Cal (3-0 and ranked 20th in the College Football Playoff Poll) to fire Clay Helton. Helton has USC on the way toward a Pac-12 South Division championship and a potential league title. Would the school fire Helton if he wins a championship? Maybe for Meyer but otherwise probably not.
END OF THE WEEK PITHY COMMENT: The Los Angeles Lakers have committed something like $79 million next year to pay LeBron James and Anthony Davis. That’s a lot of money if the fans don’t come back to the arenas in droves next year and there is a good chance they won’t.